This is a cake made by thrifty, hard-working women for ‘little gurriers’

Lilly Higgins: This delicious cake is a nostalgic slice of my childhood

The traditional Chester cake from Cork is also known as gur cake, supposedly because little “gurriers” skipping school could buy a big chunk of it cheaply and it would keep them going all day. It was traditionally made with day old bread that the bakery had, but it can also be made with old cake crumbs (not as nice, I think, but it depends on what you’ve grown up eating). I personally don’t like the texture of the cake crumbs and prefer the bread. It’s pure comfort food with warming spices and a sharp citrus icing. It does take time to bake, but I always cook other things in the oven simultaneously.

This is my mother’s recipe and a real taste of my childhood. The traditional recipe wouldn’t contain marmalade, or lemon juice in the icing. Both are my mother’s additions but round this cake off nicely. It’s a testament to hard-working thrifty women who used stale bread scraps to make something delicious to feed their family.

It is also one of the first recipes I taught my two sons to make. They love this cake. One works on the filling while the other makes the pastry. Their little sister jumps in at the last minute to pour the thick white icing. It is the perfect recipe for teamwork, they get to bake their cake and eat it too.

Recipe: Monica’s Chester cake

Lilly’s kitchen tips

  1. Feel free to buy good-quality ready made pastry for this. But really it is so easy to make this shortcrust pastry. I usually make it in the food processor and do a double batch then freeze half of it for a rainy day.
  2. Use different teas such as chai or earl grey to infuse further flavour into this simple cake.
  3. Freeze bread scraps and crusts as you get them. Then simply tip the frozen bread into a bowl and the hot tea over it.